Thursday, 23 October 2014

Because it Could Have Been Anyone of Us...

If you want to do something radical, something that will change the world and leave your mark on history, be a Canadian. If you want to be a hero, be a Canadian. You don't have to go to outer space, although Canadians have done that. You don't have to cure diseases, although Canadians have done that. You don't have to invent cutting edge technology that improves the lives of millions, although Canadians have done that. You don't have to go to war to defend our freedoms, although Canadians have done that. You don't have do anything other than what you were called to do in ordinary life; but do it well and make us proud. Hold a door open, say thank you, and say sorry when you've done something wrong; give up a seat for an elderly person on the bus and congratulate children when they give it their all to master some new skill they are learning. Tolerate diversity and be proud of your own unique contribution the fabric of our society. The most radical response to the world's problems is to keep doing those little things that make us who we are and who we will become.

When we stand on guard for our country and the freedoms others have purchased for us, we are armed with the knowledge that we are a great country because we are united as neighbours. We are Muslim, and Jewish; we are Catholic and Protestant; We are Atheists and we are Buddhists. We are Conservative and Liberal, NDP, Green and Independent. We are Aboriginal and we are immigrants. We speak our mind and allow others the chance to speak theirs. We do so in French, English, and many, many languages besides. That we can be so different and yet united is a sign of contradiction to the world. No civilization has ever been such a radical symbol of hope in the face of challenge. We are a nation founded by those who willingly died that we may live. They did not only die in war; they died in service to their neighbour throughout our history. Love of neighbour is one of the radical tenets on which our nation is founded.

Today I was especially touched by an image of Retired Corporal David Ward who, like other retired veterans across the nation, stood on guard at the local cenotaph to remember Corporal Nathan Cirillo. I was also touched by Chris Boudreau who today reminded Canadians that families of the radicalized need help to prevent further tragedies; she lost her own Canadian son in Syria. Today she had the courage to speak out for others who might yet be saved. If our vigilance levels are to be raised in the wake of the tragedies in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, let us be more vigilant for the opportunities to look out for our neighbours, to do the little things which keep our society safe and strong.

While we are rightfully proud of Kevin Vickers for his bravery, skill, and swift action on October 22, we ought also to be proud that this day was the first time in his career that he discharged his weapon on duty;  most days Vickers showed us that normally problems in Canada can be solved without violence or force. Vickers' return to work today was also a heroic act. It speaks of his resilience and reminds us of our obligation to carry on too. It's good to have neighbours like Vickers, not just because he occasionally carries a gun, but also because he normally carries the mace, that symbol of our democracy. 

It could have been anyone of us who lost a loved one in the line of duty, or who lost a loved one to the clutches of a radical sect. Because it could have been anyone, it means that the person you help today may be the hero you will be praising tomorrow. The person you help today may likewise be the person who would otherwise feel dejected and tempted to join some misguided group in an attempt to bring meaning to their life. If you feel your life is without purpose, look to your left then look to your right; your purpose is to help those people right where you are, no matter where they came from or where they are headed. They are your neighbour, and you are theirs. You may be the person who makes the difference in their lives today; you may never know what that difference will be, but let us all be grateful for small chances to do our part. To every Canadian who acted heroically yesterday thank you. To every Canadian who loved their neighbour today, thank you too. Love has always been the most radical response to hatred, and the only one that has ever changed a damn thing.

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